Academy sex assault case won’t go to civilian court

Air Force Times, Staff report, Friday Jan 12, 2007 10:26:47 EST

Civilian prosecutors said Wednesday they will not file charges against an officer accused of sexually assaulting a female cadet while both attended the Air Force Academy, according to The Associated Press.

Prosecutors said they weighed Colorado laws with the investigative reports on Capt. Joseph Harding, whose alleged assault on a fellow cadet in 2000 sparked a scandal at the academy.

Chief prosecutor Diana May said authorities concluded they could not meet the required burden of proof.

In September, a military judge dismissed a rape charge against Harding because the accuser's therapist refused to release her medical records on grounds that they were confidential.

The accuser, Jessica Brakey, was among the first of dozens of women who said they were punished or ignored when they reported being sexually assaulted. The scandal, which broke in 2003, prompted several investigations and toppled the school's top commanders.

Brakey has agreed to have her name used publicly.

"It does say something important that the civilian office felt it necessary and appropriate to review the case," her attorney, Wendy Murphy, said Wednesday.

Harding has maintained his innocence, and his attorney David Sheldon said they weren't surprised at the decision, given "how weak the case was from the beginning."

"The true person who was the victim was Harding, because he was denied the opportunity to fully defend himself and clear his name," Sheldon said.